Rebrands are a natural stage in the life cycle of every brand or business. It’s more likely to be a matter of when, not if, you will rework your brand into a newer, better, stronger-than-ever version of itself. Whether it’s a top-to-bottom reinvention of your business model through its name and logo or just a modification to the color palette and website design, we are here to help you sense when the right time has come to embark on the quest that is… the rebrand (dun dun DUN).
What’s In A Brand, Anywho?
Before diving into the reasons why someone would make these changes and updates, it’s important to understand all of the pieces that actually go into a brand.
First thing’s first: YOUR BRAND IS SO MUCH MORE THAN A LOGO. There. I said it. Even if you don’t have a fully fleshed-out guidebook and the logo is your sole identifier, there are still many nonphysical pieces of your brand that are tied to the logo.
Your brand is your vision, purpose, and values that you set forth and build your business upon. It is the way you speak. It’s the phone call you have with a client. It’s what you post to your Facebook page. It’s your website (not just how it looks, but how users interact with it).
Of course, your brand can be visually expressed, too. It’s in the colors you use across marketing materials. It’s in the decorative supporting embellishments that go with those colors. It’s in the fonts on your website or when you send a letter in the mail. It’s even your storefront or office space that your clients, customers, and employees visit every day.
All of these pieces—the tangible and intangible—make up a brand, whether they’ve been written down somewhere or not. Overall, your brand is any impression someone makes when they connect with you. It is your reputation and a story you want the world to understand. It is your identity in the marketplace. A brand is every point of contact and experience an individual has with your business, and how it makes them feel afterward.
So you may be thinking, “We’ve already spent a lot of time and energy establishing this brand. You’re telling me I should change it?” There are a lot of reasons that may factor into why a business would and should rebrand. Let’s dive into the different points in time a business may decide to rework its branding.
1. Has Your Vision or Mission Changed?
Perhaps the biggest tell-tale sign your business may be ready for a rebrand is if your overall mission and vision have already changed. There’s no better opportunity to revisit the visual side of your brand to match the new messaging you want to communicate. You may have decided to pivot or expand your business offerings or introduce a new side of your business like a new product or service group. If so, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this might warrant a change in your brand’s name and logo to help spread the word to your customers. A pivot in business mission or goals can be confusing if these new pieces don’t align with the established branding.
Google, believe it or not, was called “BackRub” at its founding. This made sense at the time, as a reference to backlinks. The name was changed to “Google” to allude to the mathematical expression for a value of 1 followed by one hundred 0s. This better fits the overarching vision of organizing the infinite amounts of information on the internet. It’s also just a really fun word to say.
GTMA is another great example of a change in vision that resulted in a large rebranding.
Our agency started in marketing and content creation in the multi-family market sector. However, around our 10th anniversary, we set off on a repositioning to be a creative agency that works in any and all market sectors, while not foregoing our multi-family roots.
Our name captures this change: it once stood for “Go To My Apartment” (remember those days?), but now doesn’t stand for any particular phrase; we are simply called GTMA. You can read all about our rebranding here.
2. Has Your Audience Changed? (Or, Do You Want Your Audience to Change?)
Another sign it might be time to consider rebranding is a desire to re-establish a relationship with your audience. Or, perhaps you’ve recognized your brand isn’t attracting the audience you hoped it would.
When this happens, it’s time to pause and reassess who your target audience really is, not who your actual audience is. Consider factors like age and gender. Is your logo that was designed in the 90s going to attract a Gen-Z or Millenial looking for the next coolest thing? Is your messaging that references trends on TikTok sending the wrong signals to a more mature audience? Maybe your color palette or typography errs on the side of too masculine or too feminine for a product that isn’t gender-exclusive.
Instagram updated its logo and interface design to better speak to a modern user who is all too familiar with mobile apps and contemporary design, and not grandmas still using their vintage Polaroid camera. The universal minimal design and bright re-color make Instagram stand out against the other social media apps on a phone home screen as opposed to the muted, retro-inspired design of the icon and app when it first launched. It doesn’t cater to any one audience with its updated simple design.
If your business is location-based, this change will bring forth a new audience and new surroundings that should be considered in your visuals and messaging. A business born in a rural town that is moving into the city will serve a new audience base and overall territory that is unlike where it came from. It will likely want to speak and feel differently to better fit this new market. The same can be said for brands expanding into new territories. Your location-specific name and logo simply won’t work the same at capturing your business intentions if you are serving beyond that original location. A ‘mom and pop’ brand could feel disjointed if the business expands and the visual identity doesn’t follow suit.
3. Do You Feel Embarrassed or Dissatisfied With Your Brand?
Sometimes the only reason you need to embark on a rebrand is purely a gut feeling that says, “I no longer feel connected or happy with how my brand looks and feels.” It might stem from a simple desire for an aesthetic change, or a sense of shame or dispassion that comes when you share your business card with someone. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting a change that better suits your preferred aesthetic vision. Every business should feel proud and enthusiastic about the branding they present to the world. If that passion and dignity aren’t there anymore, you could start to lose enthusiasm for your business as a whole, and might find yourself avoiding meeting new clients and marketing your business. This is entirely valid, and a great reason to switch it up!
The flip side of this is having an audience that doesn’t react positively to your branding. We’ve touched on this already in the audience section above, but you may be getting hints and feedback from clients and customers that some part of your branding is falling short. Does it make sense for customers to feel excited putting their trust and investment into a brand that they don’t particularly like or agree with the look or messaging of? It’s well worth listening to the response from your audience if you sense they aren’t connecting to your branding.
4. Are You Well-Differentiated From Your Competitors?
Certain market sectors might see a surge in logos, messaging, and branding that all feel too similar—thinking of the high-end fashion brands who all recently decided to change their logos to plain sans-serif in all caps. While these may be individual brands with their own history and established differentiators from the rest, they’ve all given into following the same design trend and can now barely be told apart.
A crucial step in our process with both new branding and rebranding is to always consider what the competitors are doing. How can we create something distinguishable that still aligns with the market space? If three businesses are all selling a comparable product, and two out of three have almost identical colors and typography, you’re more likely to remember that third that is standing out and doing something different. Going against the grain of the competitive landscape, while it may feel risky, drives more interest and draws a defining line that says, “Go with my company because we are not like the rest.”
Many fast-food chains are using a very similar brand feel and color palette of red, yellow, and green—but when one breaks the mold with distinctive, unconventional branding, you’re more likely to recall that one, right? Because it stands out in a crowd by providing a one-of-a-kind brand experience that people feel excited and interested in trying. Why would any brand want to do the same thing someone else is? Resist the urge to conform to an established market trend. Visual design will be the first indicator as to whether your product has something distinct to offer. If you’re just trying to copy the big guys, then you may be overlooked in an expanse of similar products. If you find yourself adrift in the sea of sameness, it could be time to take a leap and make yourself seen and heard.
5. Are You Outgrowing Your Brand? Or Is Your Branding Just Plain Old Old?
Long-standing brands have all at one point or another undergone a rebranding process in some shape or form.
McDonald’s has seen 10 iterations of its logo in 80 years.
Starbucks has seen four in 50 years.
Apple has seen seven in 45 years.
But you don’t have to be a McDonald’s or Starbucks or Apple to see your company outgrowing its branding.
You may find that your offerings have grown beyond a niche you identified when you first started. Dunkin’ Donuts became just “Dunkin’” when they decided the “Donuts” was too exclusive considering the other food and beverage items they sell nowadays.
An element of this also has to do with a desire to change with the times. A logo that felt appropriate and on-trend 10 years ago likely doesn’t feel the same anymore. Looking at cultural context is a great way to tell if you are due for an update. Land O Lakes removed the Native American figure from their butter packaging in an effort to move beyond the cultural implications of using American Indian names and imagery for promotional purposes. They instead decided to shift brand focus to the farmer-owned nature of their product.
Cultural norms and contexts are very important to consider when it comes to reexamining branding that might be outdated or outgrown. We will touch on this more in the next section about detaching from negative perceptions.
6. Do You Need to Dissociate From Negative Perceptions About Your Brand?
Brands and businesses can face any number of challenges that might cause unsavory opinions and tarnished reputations; faulty or unsatisfactory products, scandals within leadership, lack of diversity or representation in clients and employees, and names or imagery with negative associations are just some examples of hardship a brand may need to recover from and overcome.
We see this more and more in the 21st century as customers find themselves avoiding brands that have had unfortunate events occur or increasing disapproval from the customer base. Airline ValuJet became AirTran following a devastating plane crash that killed over 100 passengers in 1996.
GMAC Bank became Ally Bank after accepting a government bailout worth billions after the housing collapse of 2008.
Victoria’s Secret and Barbie have both strived for greater inclusion and diversity in their models and dolls after years of customers calling them out for setting impossible beauty standards for women and young girls.
A rebrand during or after a difficult situation shouldn’t be seen as weakness or running away from your problems. It’s not a sign of escaping, ignoring, or rewriting history. Rebranding sends a message to the world that you are receptive to change, and have learned and grown. You are channeling that negative experience into becoming a new and better version of yourself. It’s a fresh start and an opportunity to be born anew so customers have a chance to re-establish relationships and trust.
7. Was Your Brand Included in a Merger or Acquisition?
Did your business recently acquire or merge with another business? Congratulations! This is a perfect opportunity to take pieces from each brand involved and reinvent your brand to better reflect the new business you have both become. Acquisitions and mergers don’t always require a full rebranding, but they are another noteworthy chance to look at the architecture of how these brands are fitting and working together and to see if something new can be created from this relationship.
GTMA’s acquisition of web development company Indevver was another big factor in our decision to rebrand. This was a major level-up in our service offerings by expanding our website building capabilities greatly, and therefore a critical pivot point in our business—another motivation to level up our brand as well. Read more about our acquisition of Indevver here.
8. Are You Attracting New Talent to Hire?
Employee prospects should be treated the same as a target audience—you are working to attract top-tier talent and culture matches to work for your company in the same way you market your product or service to the desired audience.
Think about the kinds of individuals you want working for your company; your employees, after all, represent your brand too. Just like researching which product to buy from where, job seekers perform the same kind of research on the companies they could be working for. They may ask, “Do we have aligning values, interests, and vision? Will I fit in with the people already working there? What’s the office/workspace like? Is this a place I could feel excited and proud to work for and represent?” Brands that can prove they put care and attention into their image and mission are more likely to draw in the interest of the right job applicants. They can sense that this is a company that likely values their people and success in addition to looking good. Your visuals and messaging are a key indicator of the kind of workplace and culture you run, and you may be missing the top-notch job applicants if you are running outdated, messy, or inaccurate branding.
Pulling It All Together.
Do any of these factors sound relatable to you? If you find yourself experiencing any one or a few of these decision points, then it may be time to start thinking about rebranding.
It’s important to remember a few things about rebranding: it can be as simple as tweaking your logo, mission statement, or color palette, or as big as a top-to-bottom overhaul of everything you stand for, or somewhere in between. Regardless of which approach you take, rebranding should not be a scary or daunting process. Yes, a rebrand brings forth change, and we can all get a little uncomfortable with a change here and there. But when placed in the hands of the right experts, a brand can transform into something new and powerful that you didn’t see or feel before. Putting your trust in a well-fit professional brand designer will make all the difference so you can feel safe, confident, and excited about the next chapter in your brand’s story.
GTMA’s Branding + Design team specializes in a data and story-driven design strategy that combines research and a deep understanding of creative visual communication to create truly unique and memorable brand experiences. We bring skill and passion to the table and would be thrilled to work alongside you in your company’s rebranding efforts.